Looking for Substance in the Style

Three periodeut huddled together at the base of a stacked-stone pillar, surrounded by cripples and old women. Leaning against it was a wooden ladder that stretched nearly 50 feet to its top. The youngest of the three asked about the tactics he was to use, again.

“So ... if he obeys?”

“If he obeys to come down, then he may stay.”

“And if he won’t come down ...”

“If he doesn’t come down then he must come down.”

A confused look crossed the face of the young priest and he hesitated as his foot stopped on the first rung of the ladder. Angry glares from his instructors propelled him upward.

Reaching the top of the column, he found himself staring into the boney face of a man standing bent in half, his head nearly touching his ankles. His eyes were closed.

“Christian! You have shown fierce pride in your humiliations and spiritual greed in your self-denial. The Bishop hereby orders you to retire from this charade,” the priest said with forced authority.

The man opened his dark eyes and simply said, “Yes, Abouna.” He slowly raised himself and turned to reach his leg over the side of the column.

The priest’s instructions raced through his mind and he quickly glanced down at his companions.

“Wait!” he yelled, “... no ... you may stay ...”

For thirty-six years more, he didn’t leave his pillar; praying, preaching, and performing severe acts of penance. Pilgrims from the farthest reaches of the nation visited him. Emperors consulted him for advice.

On the evening of August 30th, 459, seventy-year-old Simeon the Stylite bowed deeply in prayer as was his usual custom. At the end of three days without anyone having seen him move a muscle, a concerned devotee climbed the ladder and found him deceased.

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